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The Man Who Wasn't There (2001)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama  |  16 November 2001 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 82,011 users   Metascore: 73/100
Reviews: 440 user | 190 critic | 33 from Metacritic.com

A laconic, chain-smoking barber blackmails his wife's boss and lover for money to invest in dry cleaning, but his plan goes terribly wrong.


, (uncredited)


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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 23 wins & 41 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lilyan Chauvin ...


1949, Santa Rosa, California. A laconic, chain-smoking barber with fallen arches tells a story of a man trying to escape a humdrum life. It's a tale of suspected adultery, blackmail, foul play, death, Sacramento city slickers, racial slurs, invented war heroics, shaved legs, a gamine piano player, aliens, and Heisenberg's uncertainty principle. Ed Crane cuts hair in his in-law's shop; his wife drinks and may be having an affair with her boss, Big Dave, who has $10,000 to invest in a second department store. Ed gets wind of a chance to make money in dry cleaning. Blackmail and investment are his opportunity to be more than a man no one notices. Settle in the chair and listen. Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The last thing on his mind is murder.


Crime | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for a scene of violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






| |

Release Date:

16 November 2001 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The Barber Project  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$20,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£419,609 (UK) (26 October 2001)


$7,494,849 (USA) (22 February 2002)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Jennifer Jason Leigh dubbed in the murmuring voice of the sobbing prisoner's visitor. See more »


When Riedenschneider is talking to Ed in the jail after receiving information from the private detective: "You can't know the reality of what happened, or what would have happened if you hadn't stuck in your own Goddamn schnoz. So, there is no 'what happened.' Looking at something changes it. They call it The Uncertainty Principle. Sure it sounds screwy, but even Einstein says the guy is on to something." However, Albert Einstein never accepted Werner Heisenberg's uncertainty principle as a fundamental physical law, stating: "Quantum mechanics is certainly imposing. But an inner voice tells me that it is not yet the real thing. The theory says a lot, but does not really bring us any closer to the secret of the 'old one'. I, at any rate, am convinced that He (God)does not throw dice." [Quantum Mechanics is based on laws of probability ... hence the reference to dice.] See more »


[first lines]
Ed Crane: Yeah, I worked in a barbershop, but I never considered myself a barber. I stumbled into it. Or married into it, more precisely.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening titles cast shadows on the wall as if they are real. See more »


References The Night of the Hunter (1955) See more »


Piano Sonata No.25 in G major, Op.79
Written by Ludwig van Beethoven
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User Reviews

I'm always there when they screen it
23 March 2007 | by (Hungary) – See all my reviews

Besides being great stuff for film maniacs who like to debate the technical aspects, the cinematography or the artistic ideas and influences in it, 'The Man Who Wasn't There' is also a great film. One of my all-time favorites. The sort of film where the best possible choice of cast plays even the most insignificant walk-on role. The Coens' signature in there: being visually very conscious, especially for their film noir venture, they must have spent a huge amount of time to find the best possible faces for every single shot. Not necessary to waste words on how well they did in their choices for the lead roles. Fortunately these 'faces' they collected can also act, everyone does incredibly well here.

'The Man Who Wasn't There' has a slowly developing story, that at first viewing may require your patience a little bit. But the second and third viewings and so on will be a lot smoother... I have seen the film about five or six times already. There's this weird TV channel that screens it just about every other week and I seem to always happen to be in front of the screen at the time, by mere chance. And I never zap away, I enjoy all the details more and more, and I feel the gloating that's there in the very cold, cruel humor of the film, as well as the saddening feeling it accumulates into, as you continue watching people acting as mere unidentified flying objects in the others' life, just as strongly as the first time.

30 of 40 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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